Blog: West Link Road opens in Inverness

westlinkinverness.1203x0-isA blog on Inverness by the Scottish Cities Alliance featuring The West Link as it opens to traffic and Inverness Airport Business Park’s opportunities.

A vital piece of infrastructure has opened in Inverness which will boost economic growth and ease congestion.

The West Link Road is an ambitious project which completes the link between the Dores roundabout and the A82 at Torvean, crossing the River Ness. It is an ambitious project which will deliver a greatly improved infrastructure to support the future development, growth and prosperity of Inverness and the Highlands.

The West-Link will reduce congestion in the city centre, enable housing development and associated developer contributions and provide additional capacity over the River Ness will remove unnecessary traffic from the city centre, along with fumes and noise. The link will make the city centre a more pleasant place for shoppers and pedestrians.

The new link will:

  • Help achieve the greater ambition for the City of Inverness and will enable further development
  • Bring a Benefit to Cost Ratio of nearly £4 of benefit to every £1 of public investment
  • Form part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region deal which is a joint initiative supported by up to £315 million investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, HIE and University of the Highland and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth.

The Scottish Cities Alliance’s Pitch Book features investment potential in Inverness.

One of the potential investments is at Inverness Airport Business Park which is a planning approved and master planned mixed-use commercial property development with approximately 275 acres of land available (over the long term) for occupancy across four key Development Zones – Phase 1, Hotel (Plot 1), Airside and Railside.

iapb.976x0-isThe Co-op recently announced plans for a new, bespoke distribution centre to be located at Inverness Airport Business Park (IABP). The new development will support the Co-op’s future store expansion and delivery network for stores in the North of Scotland when it opens in the late summer of 2018. The new IABP distribution centre will also ensure continued employment for the 40 staff at the site, which is located in the nearby Dalcross Industrial Estate, with potential for the creation of new jobs as the site develops following opening.

The new facility will continue to be serviced by double decker vehicles as opposed to single decker, resulting in fewer journeys reducing CO2 emissions and eliminating 1,800 road miles per day, making the Co-op’s logistics operation in Scotland a lot more environmentally friendly.

James Campbell, IABP chairman, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Co-op to Inverness Airport Business Park and look forward to working with them on the delivery of their new 12,000 sqft purpose-built distribution facility.

“Securing the Co-op as our anchor tenant very much sets the tone for what we are looking to achieve at IABP and the new facility is widely regarded as a ground-breaking development for Inverness and the Highlands. IABP provides occupiers with excellent transport links and connectivity by air, road and soon to be rail, with the proposed introduction of the Inverness Airport (Dalcross) Station.

“It’s a very exciting time for IABP and we are encouraged to see the continued growth and success at Inverness Airport and Tornagrain New Town as well as the major transport infrastructure projects already underway on the A96 and A9 trunk roads.”

Hundreds of new Inverness homes recommended for approval

George Fraser, chief executive of Tulloch Homes, outside another development in Inverness

George Fraser, chief executive of Tulloch Homes, outside another development in Inverness

Proposals for 767 new homes in Inverness look set to be granted planning permission by councillors next week.

Tulloch Homes has proposed building the mix of houses and flats in three phases on land between Dores Road and the River Ness.

The area, close to Inverness’ new West Link Road, was first allocated for housing in the 1980s.

Highland Council planning officers have recommended that councillors on the south planning applications committee approve the project.

Architects at BakerHicks begin full concept design for new Inverness prison

HMP Highland (front) (image courtesy of BakerHicks)Multi-disciplinary design and engineering company BakerHicks has started work on the full concept design for the new £70 million HMP Highland in Inverness.

The initial designs by BakerHicks, which were used to achieve Planning Permission in Principle, are now being developed by their design team to a point that the project can be tendered for construction.

The contract for the concept design, which includes the preparation of all ITT Documentation, was awarded to BakerHicks through the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) framework on a multi-discipline basis for Architectural, Civil & Structural, Mechanical & Electrical and Principal Designer Services.

The new prison includes a central Roundhouse as a focal point for visitors, the family centre and staff facilities, with the main building designed to reflect the river Ness. Using the long winding wave through the site means that, from eye level, the building can never be viewed in its entirety, making it less oppressive to pedestrians or prison visitors. The design is complemented by landscaped garden courtyards, which BakerHicks is partnering with TGP Landscape Architects on for landscape design services.

Laura James

Laura James

Laura James, head of Scotland at BakerHicks, said it is important that the best-in-class design also works well with the operational requirements of the prison.

Laura added: “We’re now taking our initial design and adding in detailed floor plans and internal layouts to the areas allocated on the Step One design.

“We’re working especially closely with the SPS team through a series of workshops to maximise the use of space and ensure the designs are appropriate for how the prison is managed and how it interacts with the local community.”

HMP Highland will serve the Highlands, Islands and Moray areas and hold up to 200 offenders in purposely designed accommodation units. It has double the size of the existing prison which it is intended to replace. It will be the first new prison in the Scottish Highlands for more than a century.

The project is being developed taking full consideration of the Highland Council’s Sustainable Design Guide which has been prepared to encourage agents, architects, builders and clients to opt for buildings that are designed to respond to the local landscape and climate. The SPS Three Step Process has been used, encompassing: Step One – Initial Concept and site investigation; Step Two – Planning Permission in Principle; and Step Three – Preparation of ITT Documentation. BakerHicks has been working with the commercial property firm Colliers International throughout.

BakerHicks has considerable experience in the prisoner and custodial sector, having previously completed projects for HMP Perth and the Young Offenders Institute at Polmont.

Approval for five-year vision for 6,000 new Highland homes

Inverness is regarded as a high priority area for the new homes

Inverness is regarded as a high priority area for the new homes

A five-year strategy to enable the delivery of 6,000 new homes across the Highlands, of which 2,500 will be socially rented, has been agreed by councillors.

Members of The Highland Council’s people committee have approved the council’s Local Housing Strategy for 2017 – 2022, which has indicated that 45% of the new homes will be required as a high priority in Inverness and the surrounding area.

Other communities that have also been identified in the strategy as a high priority for housing development include: Aviemore, Wick and Thurso; Fort William; Nairn; Dingwall; Ullapool and Gairloch; Portree, Boradford, Plockton and Dornie; and Dornoch, Clashmore and Embo.

Councillor Alasdair Christie, who chairs the council’s people committee, said: “I welcome this strategy which will help to deliver the council’s Programme priorities to provide homes across the Highlands so that both young and old have a secure roof over their heads; that the council and its partners will aim to build 500 new affordable homes every year for the next five years; and improve the quality and condition of the housing stock and minimise fuel poverty.”

He added: “Members have scrutinised the draft strategy and we are now confident that as a living and working document it is fit for purpose to deliver the council’s housing priorities.”

The Highland Housing Strategy sets out the council’s vision for housing over the next five years and what the council will do to:

  • increase the supply of homes in Highland so that there are enough houses in the right places to meet housing needs;
  • contribute to the effective integration of health and social care so that housing design and delivery of housing and housing-related services meet the changing needs of individuals;
  • prevent and respond to homelessness and make sure people have the right help to let them make decisions on their housing options; and
  • improve the condition of housing and minimise fuel poverty to improve the quality, comfort and affordability of homes.

Peer review feedback from the Scottish Government was taken into consideration on the draft strategy along with comments from a public consultation held this summer.

The council also consulted widely on the Highland Local Development Plan and the main issues for Local Housing Strategy in a series of public events during September to November 2015.

The strategy has been developed collaboratively through the Highland Housing Strategy Group which includes the council’s Planning, Development and Housing Services; registered social landlords; developers; Cairngorms National Park Authority; and NHS Highland.

Inverness planning blueprints for up to 3,000 new homes approved

Inverness stock 2Two major planning documents that will shape the growth of Inverness have been approved by members of the Highland Council’s city of Inverness area committee.

The Draft Inverness East Development Brief sets out plans for developers to deliver up to 3,000 new private and affordable homes and a suite of community and employment uses that will now be published for public consultation.

In addition, the Inverness City Development Brief will now be referred to Scottish Ministers for formal adoption and then taken forward as part of the council’s Development Plan. This will replace the existing Inverness City Centre Development Brief adopted in March 2013.

Provost and leader of Inverness and area, Councillor Helen Carmichael, said: “Councillors welcome these major steps forward which support the Council’s Programme priorities under ‘A Place to Live’ to provide affordable homes and development opportunities that promote resilient and attractive communities while regenerating our city.”

She added: “I would like to thank everyone for their interest in the Draft Inverness East Development Brief and in particular to the young people at Inverness College and Culloden Youth Forum who have contributed to the preparation of this exciting master plan. I would urge anyone with an interest to keep an eye out for the public consultation in the New Year.  This will be promoted in due course and published online.”

Describing the Inverness East Development Brief, Scott Dalgarno, Highland Council’s development plans manager, said: “Inverness East is the next major urban expansion of the city, and it is important that it is developed in a way that works for existing and new communities. We have involved local communities from an early stage to develop a Brief that prioritises walking; cycling and public transport and promotes creating great places to live, work and visit.

“Existing landscape features are incorporated into an ambitious master plan that identifies new facilities such as a district park, sports facilities at Inverness Campus, a new urban centre, two new primary schools and a high school, and high quality walking and cycling connections in addition to the proposed East Link road.”

Former Inverness College grounds to be transformed into new homes

robertson groupRobertson Northern is starting work on a £3.6 million contract to build a selection of affordable homes in the Midmills area of Inverness.

The contract, awarded by Highland Council, will see Robertson Northern build 31 new apartments at the former Inverness College site.

The works at the Midmills site are due to start in November 2017 and are expected to be complete by December 2018.

Frank Reid, managing director at Robertson Northern, said: “This development will breathe new life into the former college grounds and help meet the need for more affordable homes in Inverness.

“The planned works will help transform the existing space into a thriving community area with beautiful homes and great communal spaces. The extensive works planned for the wider Midmills site will help to reinvigorate this historic and desirable area of Inverness.”

Provost of Inverness and Area, Highland Councillor Helen Carmichael, said: “The new apartments at Midmills Campus will be a great addition to the range of housing we are able to offer to people in Inverness and the surrounding areas.

“This particular development of 31 properties for rent by the Highland Council will be available for people aged 55 or older. Housing is a huge priority in the region and is a key priority in the council’s programme. This excellent development is providing much needed homes in Inverness that are responsive to local needs.”

And finally… Council puts former World War Two bunker up for sale

AM_Emergency_BunkerA bunker built to survive a direct hit from World War Two’s most powerful bombs has been offered for sale.

Prospective buyers have until 2pm on Wednesday 6 December 2017 to make their offers for the subterranean property in the Raigmore area of Inverness.

The Highland Council expects a six-figure sum for the property.

The Inverness Emergency Bunker includes a tarmacadam surfaced car park and 2 subterranean levels which were built in 1941 to house the RAF during the Second World War. The bunker was built to survive a direct hit from the most powerful bombs of the time. The structure is built with thick concrete walls and ceilings.

During the 1980’s the facility was enhanced to enable it to withstand nuclear, biological or chemical attacks. As a result the premises now benefit from blast and sealed doors, decontamination facilities, two diesel generators to power the building and an air filtration system to provide safe air in the event of nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

The property site is set in a forested area of mature broadleaved trees.

Developers sought to lead ‘ambitious’ expansion of John O’Groats

john o groatsAerial image with red outlineAgents have been appointed to attract new investors and developers to realise “ambitious” plans for expansion at the iconic location of John O’Groats.

Located on the far north coast of Scotland in the county of Caithness overlooking the Pentland Firth to the Orkneys, the popular tourist destination is famous for lying on the north-eastern point of one end of the longest distance between two inhabited points on the British mainland, with Land’s End in Cornwall lying 876 miles to the southwest.

John O’Groats has benefited from the Natural Retreats’ development and regeneration in recent years and the investment of other local operators. The area is also reportedly starting to see the economic benefits of Meygen’s long-term commitment to developing tidal energy within the Pentland Firth.

Outline planning consent is now in place for a masterplan development which proposes a structure formed around a series of six zones: harbour front and public realm; central core; natural retreats site; artisans and craftsmen; events field; and residential quarter.

Heritage GB and Natural Assets have appointed Shepherd Chartered Surveyors and Strutt & Parker as joint agents.

Sandy Rennie, partner in the Inverness office of Shepherd Chartered Surveyors, said: “Expressions of interest are sought from third party investors including developers, operators and any potential tenants. This is a unique opportunity to invest in an iconic location within the UK and capitalise on the tourist trade within Scotland, which has gone from strength to strength, particularly the success of the North Coast 500 route which has rapidly established itself as one of the most scenic driving routes in the world.”

Euan MacCrimmon at Strutt & Parker, added: “We are very excited about the appointment and opportunity, particularly given that John O’Groats is very much enjoying a surge in popularity, following the last five years of large scale new developments and the NC500 effect, which has created another wave of visitation to the area.”

The six masterplan zones are:

  • Zone 1 – harbour front and public realm– sea front with Last House, cafes, small retail, harbour and public areas. Buildings largely existing but scope for careful insertions.
  • Zone 2 – central core – mixed use development around a pedestrian square, including food and beverage, retail, small residential units, existing retail buildings retained and upgraded.
  • Zone 3 – natural retreats site– holiday accommodation and ancillary functions.  Public park and play area. This zone is largely developed except for landscaping improvements, park and possible insertions into gaps.
  • Zone 4 – artisans and craftsmen– small artisan industrial units such as micro-brewery, distillery, weavers, etc. Community buildings such as children’s centre, medical centre, etc.
  • Zone 5 – events field– green space at the centre of the village suitable for large scale community events as well as day to day recreation. Potential pavilion building.
  • Zone 6 – residential quarter– family housing, detached cottages, villas and terraced houses. Walled market garden/allotments and overflow car parking.

Morrison Construction starts work on £15m Ardross Distillery

Ardross Distillery - Scene 7 - Stone Option - 01.12.16Morrison Construction has started works on the £15 million Ardross Distillery development in the scenic Averon Valley, 30 miles north of Inverness.

The project for Ardross Investments Ltd will involve the refurbishment and extension of a dilapidated farm complex on a private 50-acre site that includes Loch Dubh.

Once part of Ardross Mains Farm established in the nineteenth century, the steading buildings, farm house and cottages will be retained for the distillery. Stone and slate will be salvaged from existing buildings that have collapsed and will be used to rebuild walls and roofs of the development.

Walls at the rear of the main steading will be removed and rebuilt to increase the size of the building for a two-storey still house, tun room, mash house and milling area. This building will surround two large courtyards with parking to the front.

The two detached one-and-a-half storey cottages to each side of the main steading will become offices and staff accommodation. An old dairy building behind the staff accommodation will become a blending and product development lab. A three-storey house at the rear of the site will become a vaulted cask storage area and marketing suite, the boiler house will also be located at the side of this building.

Ardross Distillery - Scene 4 - Stone Option - 01.12.16In early 2018 two large copper stills and other process equipment for the distillery will be transported to site. Ardross Distillery will also house a customised gin distillery with the intention of launching its first product onto the market in late 2018.

Donald Mclachlan, Morrison Construction managing director, said: “Beginning construction is an exciting time and we look forward to continuing our work with Ardross Investments on this new distillery in the Highlands.

“We are proud to be working on this development, which reuses existing materials onsite, preserving the character of historic buildings.

“We will continue our engagement with local schools and wider community throughout construction ensuring the development has a lasting positive impact.”

This is the second distillery project that Morrison Construction will work on this year, having previously completed a whisky maturation warehouse at Glenmorangie’s Tain distillery.

Five year strategic plan approved for 2,500 new Highland affordable homes

invernessThe Highland Council has pledged to approve 500 affordable housing units each year for the next five years of which 70% will be for affordable rent and 30% for low cost home ownership.

Councillors on the environment, development and infrastructure committee yesterday agreed a Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP) for 2018-2023 and to reaffirm the council’s commitment to deliver new homes in the Highlands.

The Plan sets out how investment in affordable housing will be directed up until 2023 with 2,500 new homes built by 2020 and another 500 per year after that. Money will come from a mix of City Region Deal cash, prudential borrowing and grants from the Scottish Government as part of its pledge to build at least 50,000 affordable homes over the period of this parliament.

Since the Council House Build programme began in 2008/09 in Highland over 1,000 council houses and flats have been completed or are under development.

Chair of the committee, Councillor Allan Henderson, said: “Not only is this investment helping to support jobs in the building industry, but it is also providing people and families with access to good quality, affordable homes where they can be safe and warm.

“Housing is and will remain a priority for the council. There is no doubt that it is a very ambitious goal but I am confident that over the next five years we will reach the target thanks to the effective and productive partnership approach we have developed with the Scottish Government, Housing Associations and the private sector.

“In our wider enabling role, we will continue to work to bringing forward sites we own for re-development and work with the private sector to unlock the constraints for other strategic sites throughout the Highlands, using or own Landbank Fund, the Scottish Government Infrastructure Loan Fund and any other opportunities that become available.”